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Empowerment

Co-production is one of many ways of putting into practice citizen and community empowerment.

Community empowerment is about "...shifting power, influence and responsibility away from existing centres of power and into the hands of communities and individual citizens."’ – 'Communities in Control: Real people, real power', Communities and Local Government, 2008.

Co-production can bring about this sort of shift in power in a number of ways:

  • From the citizen’s and the consumer’s points of view, co-production offers greater control over the production and distribution of services which affect them, which is a key element of gaining control over one’s life (Breton, 1999, p. 37).
  • Coproduction may transfer some power from professionals to users, as it means that both parties contribute some resources and each has a legitimate voice  (Bovaird, 2007, p.855). 

However, co-production also involves the recognition that people already have assets and expertise: they are not sitting around waiting for someone to empower them. They are ‘experts on their own lives’ (Poll, 2007). From this perspective, empowerment is about people realising the power which they themselves have to improve their own quality of life, rather than relying on professionals or managers from public services transferring power to them. However, co-production requires recognition of this expertise by frontline staff and managers, alongside an understanding of the support that citizens may need to become effective co-producers. For example, people with higher levels of social capital (who are well-connected into social networks), may find it easier to co-produce than those who are not.


 

Climb Back into the tree....

 

 

 

Publications

Bovaird, T. (2007), 'Beyond engagement and participation - user and community co-production of public services', Public Administration Review, 67(5): 846-860.

Breton, M. (1999) ‘Sharing power.’ Journal of Progressive Human Services 10(1): 33-51.

Poll, C. (2007), Co-production in supported housing: KeyRing living support networks and  neighbourhood networks’, Research Highlights in Social Work: Co-Production and Personalisation in Social Care Changing Relationships in the Provision of Social Care, 49: 49–66.

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